Is this what leadership looks like?

When the news broke earlier in the year that Canterbury University academic Anne-Marie Brady’s house and office had been broken into, and that the only things taken seemed to relate specifically to her longrunning research work on the People’s Republic of China, the initial response from the government didn’t seem too bad.

Ardern said at the post-Cabinet press conference on Monday that “everyone would be concerned” if Brady had been targeted because of her academic work.

“If there’s evidence of that, we should be taking stock and taking action,” Ardern said. “I will certainly ask some questions.

“I would certainly want to be informed if there was evidence that this was a targeted action against someone who was raising issues around foreign interference.”

Brady  herself was impressed (although I think I thought –  and perhaps wrote – at the time that these comments seemed more designed to encourage the Prime Minister, rather than accurately describing any evidence to date of taking foreign interference “very seriously’).

“I am very heartened to see the Prime Minister is taking the issue of foreign interference activities in New Zealand very seriously and that she has instructed the security agencies to look into the break-ins I have experienced,” Brady said.

The story has been back in the media again thanks to the persistent efforts of Matt Nippert of the Herald.  Last weekend there was his widely-viewed (and linked to abroad) article “The curious case of the burgled professor”, and this morning the front page of the Herald has the story “SIS sweeps prof’s office“.

Electronic surveillance specialists from the Security Intelligence Service have carried out a search for listening devices at the University of Canterbury office of the professor revealed to be a possible target of Chinese espionage.

News of the sweep, confirmed by several university staff, comes as academic colleagues of Anne-Marie Brady came out in support of the China specialist….

The Herald understands a similar search for bugs by the Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) has also been conducted at Brady’s Christchurch home, the site of another suspicious burglary being investigated by authorities.

From what is reported in that story, and in Radio New Zealand’s interview this morning with Anne-Marie Brady, the Police and the SIS seem to be doing a pretty thorough job.  Brady herself praises what she has seen and heard of their efforts.

But what of the Prime Minister?  Remember that this is the “leader” of whom Matt Nippert has reported

She won’t talk about the general issue, and here she is (quoted in Nippert’s article this morning) on the specific one.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, asked about the case on Monday at her post-Cabinet press briefing, said she had yet to be briefed on whether the episode could be attributed to China.

“I have not received any further advice on that, but nor have I sought it. As it were, nothing has since been raised with me to suggest that it was, or wasn’t,” she said.

“Speaking more generally, what the underlying suggestion here is of foreign interference. I’ve been very, very cautious around always stipulating that New Zealand needs to be live to general issues of interference, and that’s something we keep a watching brief on.”

She hasn’t asked.  How convenient.  If she were really concerned about the issue, and the potential, you’d have thought she –  and her office –  would be all over an issue of this sort (as a matter of sovereignty, national security, defence of academic freedom etc, not as “interfering” in a potential criminal prosecution).

And as for that final paragraph, if that is “leadership” we’ve lost all sense of how a leader might actually act or speak.   Of course she probably isn’t in a position to make specific accusations –  especially not having asked for the information –  but what would have been so wrong about a clear and strong statement that she, and New Zealanders, would deplore and push back strongly against any foreign interference in New Zealand, and in particular if agents of a foreign power were found to have been responsible for the Brady break-ins.  She could even have gone on to say that if such evidence were found then –  even if it were not possible to launch criminal prosecutions (after all, we don’t have an extradition treaty with China) –  the damage to our bilateral relationship with such a country would be severe.

Instead we get this vacuous waffle

I’ve been very, very cautious around always stipulating that New Zealand needs to be live to general issues of interference, and that’s something we keep a watching brief on.

saying precisely nothing, from someone who appears to desperately hopes to avoid the issue.  Her response here is much weaker than her February one.

Does the Prime Minister stand for academic freedom in New Zealand, for the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders to do research, to speak out, to challenge other countries here in New Zealand, the rights of New Zealanders to be secure in their homes?  “Stand for” in the sense of being willing to pay a price to protect and defend?  Or is she more interested in doing everything possible to be able to look the other way, prioritising party fundraising, trade agreements, the interests of a few big corporates (and universities) and visits to Beijing over the values and freedoms of New Zealanders, including those like Professor Brady who’ve done in-depth research on PRC efforts here?

She, her party president, and their peers in the National Party together.

33 thoughts on “Is this what leadership looks like?

  1. Co-opting the ruling elites is what we see from China across the world. I find it strange that so many senior National party leaders get jobs in Chinese banks and wonder what exactly they are doing for the Chinese?

    Also, the sale of John Key’s house for what must have been multiples of its valuation is also enough to raise an eyebrow.

    We need to wake up to the actions of the PRC. To be aware of their activities in New Zealand doesn’t make one racist. And standing up for our values won’t lessen their respect for us. Indeed, quite the reverse. We need to understand the PRC and be very careful and cautious in our dealings with them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Has our prime Minister ever expressed any opinion about the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior? I occasionally mention it to my French son.

    Jacinda’s best response to Anne-Marie Brady’s house and office break-ins would be to avoid any condemnation but just imply that it is the type of activity one expects from non-democratic countries. Just leave it to every New Zealander to decide if the two break-ins were a coincidence.

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    • Indeed, I speak of this French spy scandal and how they were caught by our anti spying ring of busy body and gossiping housewives peering over the neighbours fence.

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    • My son was 23 months old but I am still liable to blame him.

      Parliamentary question time: can someone can ask the Police minister what is the chance of a house break-in and what is the chance of an office break-in and then ask him to multiple the two chances. The ideal MP to ask such a question would be the shadow minister of Statistics.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Prime Minister Ardern is the Minister for National Security and Intelligence and Security Intelligence Service

    Nearly a year has gone by and she has not been briefed and has not asked questions of her areas of direct responsibility. Hard to believe.

    Nippert: “PM Ardern, asked about the case on Monday at her post-Cabinet press briefing, said she had yet to be briefed on whether the episode could be attributed to China. “I have not received any further advice on that, but nor have I sought it. As it were, nothing has since been raised with me to suggest that it was, or wasn’t,” she said”

    Liked by 1 person

      • In light of these developments, it looks to me that that was a good idea.

        Better the PM is able to distance herself from it until such time as the investigations are complete to my mind.

        Don’t forget how John Key ended up lying on similar matters;
        https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11948852

        Anne-Marie Brady sounds very happy with the progress of the various agencies – the University does need to step up however as she pointed out.

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      • But the PM is Minister for Security and Intelligence, so she is Mr Little’s boss (in that particular sense). She still has portfolio responsibility, even if she isn’t responsible for the actual spy agencies.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Decisions made in the 1980’s all coming home to roost:

        The immigration policy review in 1986 was part of a much larger agenda for change in New Zealand (Bedford 1996). It was not essentially a change in state policy with a primary focus on one region of the world, as Parr (2000:329) suggests, although clearly through the 1980s and 1990s immigration from countries in Asia was a highly topical issue for both politicians and the public. The attitudes of New Zealanders in the mid-1990s towards immigration may not have reflected the positive perspective on the value of diversity in our society that is contained in the Review of Immigration Policy August 1986. But this does not mean that the globalisation of immigration to New Zealand was an “unintended consequence of policy changes in 1986”. It was a deliberate strategy, based on a premise that the “infusion of new elements to New Zealand life has been of immense value to the development of this country to date and will, as a result of this Government’s review of immigration policy, become even more important in the future” (Burke 1986:330). The data on arrivals, departures, approvals, refugee flows and net migration gains and losses reported in this paper indicates that “the infusion of new elements” into New Zealand society is proceeding apace. There is no suggestion in immigration policy in 2002 that this will not “become even more important in the future”, as Burke (1986) assumed in the mid-1980s.

        http://www.waikato.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/76554/nzpr02-28-bedford.pdf
        and

        For much of the twentieth century it was assumed that the state operated on behalf of a single nation that the two (the nation and the state were indivisible) The state represented all New Zealanders. It deserved their undivided loyalty and in return the state was neutral with respect of the ethnic identity of it’s citizens. The identity politics of Maori challenged all of these elements. The nation was made up, it was argued, of two groups and the operation of the state ought to recognise the particular circumstances and the rights of Maori. Something which it had not done previously. In fact the state had seemed to operate in ways that had directly disadvantaged Maori. The state was hardly neutral. According to Ranginui and others the state preserved Pakeha interests even if it continued to claim universality and neutrality. It was a radical rethinking of what the nation state of NZ ought to be. It required a de coupling of the nation now defined as Maori and Pakeha or Maori and the Crown and required the state to operate in new and different ways. A new understanding and a new social contract needed to be established . But of course there was no compulsion for the state to acknowledge these new expectations. It was left to the good sense and sensitivities of some key players: Maori, Pakeha and representatives of the state to explore what this means.

        http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thetreatydebates/audio/2491827/treaty-debate-1-2010

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  4. I believe NZ is timid in foreign relations because, certainly since the birth of neo-liberalism, we’ve let business rule – and generally business wants trade and money with anyone, they are prepared to overlook human rights abuses, state instrusions or corruption.
    We do not dare upset anyone. As a recent example, the Foreign Minister has refused to condemn/ or raise a finger to Saudi Arabia when called on by a petition after women who fought for the right to drive were thrown in jail, One now faces the death penalty.
    National fell over backwards to build a farm in Saudi for a strongman, and lied to us about what it was.
    No government here, whatever the colour, is about to wave a stick at China.
    But I agree, if we don’t have academics like Brady reseraching and speaking out we cannot keep beating the drum about what a great democracy we are. So we hould be supporting her.
    The lack of academics speaking out and holding governments to account is another issue.

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    • Brady does come across as a racist because her studies have been isolated to Chinese influence but most of us do know the Isrealis do have much more influence in NZ and do have a more active spy network operating in NZ and there has been no mention of that activity in any of her studies. With the French active in the past due to Greenpeace presence in NZ, I am sure they are still active today but also no mention of spying activity surrounding Greenpeace probably by the Japanese.

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      • What evidence do you have for your accusations against Israel? What is Israel spying on? NZ ‘s attack on Israel by claiming Jerusalem is not their capital is completely unjustified and lead to diplomatic relations being severed.

        Liked by 2 people

      • That is a pretty outrageous claim about Brady: she is a Chinese politics specialist, fluent in Chinese (and married to a Chinese man. This is nothing about race – check out Taiwan or Singapore as mainly ethnic Chinese contrasts – and all about power and Party in one specific country.

        Liked by 5 people

      • The elephant in the room in a multicultural society is ethnocentrism. When it comes to accusations of racism against a member of the (former) dominant group we cannot be sure if the accuser is as pure as the driven snow or a sneaky racist?

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      • GGS, you seem to know a lot about French and Israel spying in NZ, please, go ahead and tell us the details. Perhaps you should get in touch directly with the SIS and advise them of your knowledge, Is there anyone actively studying this; perhaps our SIS are leaving it alone for fear of being called racist?
        I know you’ve said (nod nod, wink wink) that “most of us do know…….” but our security agencies can easily miss this sort of thing, that’s where concerned and informed citizens such as yourself GGS come in. Arrange a meeting ASAP!
        So many questions: how far have the French and Israelis got with infiltrating our Government and businesses, is Cindy a Mossad plant , is NZ planned for nuclear bomb tests?
        On consideration, it might be best not to disclose it all on the web at this stage – loose lips sink ships and all that. Even the SIS might be in on it – perhaps it would be better to go and talk with Jacinda directly or she could come to you if they won’t let you out. Don’t take no for an answer.

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      • Actually I am more concerned about our quietly active Muslim MP, Golriz Ghahraman who would be aggresively and continuosly pushing the 5,000 per annum refugee Green policy agenda. Jacinda Ardern have just squeezed another 500 muslim refugees onto our annual refugee quota which means we are faced with 1500 muslim refugees a year now. That will require a new mosque to be built every 12 months in NZ to help our new muslim refugees to settle in NZ.

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  5. I’d say you can’t have it both ways. You want productivity growth, then you need China as a supplier and a market surely? Yet you want Jacinda to vociferously promote human rights. There is a negative correlation between these two things.

    We are a mouse trying not to get squashed between elephants (Russia, China, Euro block and US)

    It seems to me the world is currently in a dangerous situation and that we have been quite lucky to have John Key and now Jacinda. Popular pragmatists.

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  6. I don’t know about wanting them to “vociferously” promote human rights, although some forthrightness from time to time about manifestly evil regimes would not be unwelcome, or even just a frosty distance rather than an enthusiastic embrace (the latter being what both main parties have done). In fact, this post is mostly about suggestions of actual interference in NZ political/academic and private life. Defence of that is a key role of the state.

    I don’t think there is any trade-off with productivity. i don’t see the connection between China and productivity. the latter is mostly domestically generated, and China mostly consumes pretty unsophisticated bulk products (including low-ish grade export education). As I’ve noted before, taking a stand could involve some temporary losses – perhaps even permanent ones for some sectors – but we make our own prosperity, by our own choices and institutions. NZ and Australia were, after all , among the very richest countries in the world 70 years ago when trade with the PRC was irrelevant. These days we aren’t – and that isn’t any fault of China either.

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  7. I’m very interested in your ideas on productivity. It is something we should debate and think about more often. I think Productivity is about margin. Apple is productive because the price they sell an IPhone for is a lot more than the cost to make it. So NZ I/O cost does matter. My economics lecturer once said, we should concentrate on small arms and drugs instead of agriculture. Facetious yes, but the truth is that we have to find new high margin things to do. The old ones will wither and die.

    Key and Adern have a very difficult job keeping the economy and the HR/Womans Rights/ Maori/ Environment etc somehow in vague control.

    I can relate to Jacinda on this level a small amount. I’ve done 3 building developments. Many times the builders/suppliers will do something that is so terrible, my natural and wrong reaction is to scream about it. Problem is I need to work with them, whatever their faults, to finish my building and sell it. They need me to build it. Usually better to calm down and carry on. Point out the fault, agree a plan not make a fuss. Sometimes you have to fight but it’s a last resort and results in losses for all sides.

    Professor thingee’s burglary is the type of battle Jacinda should ignore at least on a public level.

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    • The problem is a set of very suspicious crimes in New Zealand. That cannot be swept under the table and it does appear that the New Zealand police is quite correctly giving it a far higher priority than they did when my neighbour’s bike was stolen from his garage. Jacinda can stay quiet until the investigation is complete. However once it is complete and if the evidence points to agencies of the govt of China then she must start a battle just as Mrs May has with the Russia govt.

      School playgrounds are far less violent now than they were when I was young so as a small nervous kid I learned that you cannot placate bullies forever – eventually you have to stand up and fight whatever the cost.

      Of course this crime is not about Prof Brady, it is about anyone in China who communicates information that may embarrass the Chinese Communist Party. It is probable that the Chinese govt would prefer Jacinda to make a fuss so by its response it can advertise the fact that it is quite willing to ignore the law in any country to identify and punish sources of information. It seems to be same as the poisoning of Sergei Skripal with Novichok – Russia could have killed him easily without fuss (push under a bus) but they deliberately wanted a conspicuous murder to deter the others.

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      • Didn’t the police originally send Prof Brady a “no further action” form letter originally? – disturbing in itself.
        This seems to be taking way longer than it should given PM injunction to investigate. With the apparent lack of interest on the PM’s part, on a matter of national security I’m tempted to suspect PM would wish the whole issue would just go away because of the difficult questions it raises.

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  8. The government’s reticence to address the issue is likely due to its limited amount of options. But the fact remains that if it is proven that Chinese agents committed the burglaries, then this is a step up from influence operations and the introduction of dodgy business practices into outright criminality. That is a transgression too far. So what is NZ to do? To not do anything is to encourage further and deeper interference in NZ domestic affairs. Or put another way: silence=acquiescence. Acquiescence=subordination.

    The problem is that the Chinese react very strongly to perceived slights and loss of face. Their reactions tend to be disproportionate to the perceived offence, something done deliberately as a form of intimidation and deterrence. So the NZ government has to walk a fine line when responding to this violation of sovereignty.

    My suggestion would be to either quietly expel a Chinese diplomat working as an offical cover (OC) intelligence gatherer (say, as a political secretary or attache), or quietly call the Chinese ambassador in for a talk under the guise of “consultations.” Any move should be kept under wraps rather be made public. NZ could recall its ambassador to Beijing in protest but that would be a futile gesture as NZ needs the PRC more than the PRC needs NZ and such a public move would prompt a strong PRC response. As it stands, the PRC is NZ’s biggest trading partner (20 percent of total trade last year), generating a NZ$3.6 billion trade surplus for NZ (out of a total trade surplus of NZ$4.2 billion). Although surpluses per se are not an absolute measure of economic stability, the fact that so much of the surplus is in the bilateral trade with China, most of which is due to the growth in milk derivatives, makes any Chinese retaliation in trade a major problem. Add to the fact that the Chinese can retaliate in many other ways and the NZ government finds itself sitting on the horns of a dilemma: how to respond without incurring the wrath? I am not confident at this point that the Labour-led coalition is fully up to the challenge presented by this dilemma.

    The story of the break-ins is receiving some international attention: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/21/world/asia/new-zealand-break-ins-academic.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront

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    • Thanks for the comments. I suspect the economics is a big element of where we might differ. I explained why in an earlier post on an article you had on interest.co.nz https://croakingcassandra.com/2018/07/09/choices-around-the-prc/

      The international attention and coverage of the story just reinforces my sense that if there is evidence the PRC was responsible, no government at all concerned about domestic legitimacy could simply adopt the hush-hush approach you suggest.

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      • I defer to your superior economic insight but think that you may undervalue the leverage the PRC has on NZ when it comes to trade, and its willingness to use it to make a geopolitical point.

        More to my concerns. I do not see a viable alternative to the quiet diplomatic approach. After doing something along the lines I suggest, the NZ government can issue a statement saying that the issue was addressed with the PRC authorities and then leave it at that. The compliant media will move on to the next story of the day, especially if it is celebrity or rugby related. Our allies will understand the need for discretion and say nothing. Given that, the PRC will be confronted with the choice of escalating the matter or accepting that NZ handled the issue, well, diplomatically.

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